Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Robert J. O'Donnell
Robert J. O’Donnell began his tenure as superintendent of the State College Area School District (SCASD) on July 28, 2011. Since arriving at State College, Dr. O’Donnell has worked closely with the SCASD Board of Directors, administration, faculty, staff and our community to develop a strategic focus for the district to support the development of all students with the skills and knowledge they will need in college and the work place. The foundation for this work includes the district’s new Strategic Planning Framework. For students to learn at high levels, instruction must meet their needs.
Specifically, this framework includes our focus on continuous improvement of teaching practices, leadership practices, and organizational practices, because they are the precursors to student learning. To this end, the anchor of the framework is the instructional vision that guides our professional practices. This frame includes Four Pillars: 1) Culture of Trust Relationships and Collaboration, 2) Responsive Teaching and Learning, 3) High Expectations for All, and 4) Welcoming and Safe Climate for Learning and Work. Together, these pillars serve as the building blocks for strengthening and sustaining a standards-aligned core instructional system throughout our school district.
Because Dr. O’Donnell has prioritized ongoing curriculum improvement, the district has implemented a restructured K- 12 curriculum development process. He is a strong believer in the potential of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to support meaningful improvement in curriculum and instruction. However, he cautions anyone who misunderstands the role of standardized testing that occurs once per year. Although Dr. O’Donnell’s data-driven mindset is part of his ongoing considerations, he reminds us that quality assessments are most valuable when they inform professional practice to improve student learning.
Dr. O’Donnell continues to put forth a continuous effort to engage faculty, staff, students, parents and community members in conversation about education in a variety of ways, including school visits, evening forums, book clubs, a monthly note, and using social media.
Dr. O’Donnell's desire to become an educator began during his graduate school experience as an applied mathematics student at Drexel University. His graduate assistantship responsibilities included teaching freshman calculus to engineering and science students. This experience inspired him to earn his Pennsylvania teaching certification prior to becoming a high school mathematics and computer science teacher in Lititz, PA. He held building- and district-level administrative positions in Lancaster, PA (Manheim Township and Hempfield School Districts). During his tenure as assistant superintendent, Dr. O’Donnell distinguished himself by leading a collaborative seven-year professional development initiative relating to differentiating instruction. This effort included a strong relationship with Carol Tomlinson and her colleagues from the University of Virginia. He refers to Carol as a high quality “guide on the side” to help guide the important professional learning of district teachers and principals. Dr. O’Donnell has taken to heart his responsibility to understand and support teacher development as they work to inspire and challenge students on behalf of our district.
Dr. O’Donnell is a proud graduate of Shippensburg University and earned his Master’s and doctorate degrees in educational leadership from Lehigh University’s Graduate School of Education.
Through blending his personal and professional journey of learning experiences, Dr. O’Donnell possesses both old-school and futuristic perspectives on public education’s role to serve each young person every day. His highest priority of district work includes knowing each student as a learner and individual, as this is the most critical precursor for teachers to provide responsive learning experiences.
Dr. O’Donnell enjoys reading books and articles, and he frequently shares these via his Twitter account: @ODonnell_Bob
Dr. O’Donnell and his wife, Lori, live in State College with their three children.
Dr. Robert O'Donnell speaks to the media at Park Forest Middle School